Consumers Want Smaller, More Energy Efficient Homes

January 23, 2010

New home buyers and existing homeowners who are planning improvements in the next few months say their top priorities include price, energy-efficiency, organization and comfort, according to a survey sponsored by Better Homes & Gardens, released at the International Builders' Show.

“Not surprisingly, we continue to see a ‘cents and sensibility’ approach when it comes to buying or improving a home, with practicality and price being top priorities,” says Eliot Nusbaum, executive editor/home design. “Today’s homeowner is also looking for a home that fits the entire family—from a multi-tasking home office, to expanding storage space needs, to a living room that can adapt to advancements in home entertainment and technology.”

Home Buyers
The results of the Next Home Survey, conducted in November 2009 with more than 2,300 respondents nationwide, suggest future home buyers want a smaller and more energy efficient home. Continuing the “downsizing” trend, more consumers (36 percent in 2009 versus 32 percent in 2008) expect their next home to be “somewhat smaller” or “much smaller.”

Reflecting growing demand for a greener home, 87 percent of respondents plan to have high-efficiency heating/cooling in their next home, with 86 percent planning to have high-efficiency appliances. Nearly 25 percent say they will have geo-thermal heat.

When asked how today’s housing market and economic turmoil have impacted priorities for their next home, 76 percent said energy-efficient heating and cooling systems will be “more important” and for 70 percent Energy Star appliances will be “more important.”

Almost half (48 percent) say green building practices/materials will be “more important” when purchasing their next home.

An Organized, Multi-Tasking Home
The home office is a priority as 59 percent of consumers plan to have one in the home. Of those, only 28 percent want a separate dedicated home office space (compared to 64 percent in 2008), with 33 percent now wanting a more multi-purposed space, such as combined office/computer/ hobby/craft/art room.

A well organized home is key, with 66 percent of respondents listing “no-space-wasted” design and 62 percent listing ample storage space as attributes that will take on more importance. Also on the wish list for the next home is: a separate laundry room (85 percent); an outdoor grilling and living area (68 percent); a kitchen with eating area (67 percent); and an extra bedroom with bath (65 percent).

America’s love affair with the large garage continues to flourish with 37 percent now wanting a three-car or larger garage compared to 29 percent in 2008.

Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) consider a comfortable family gathering space to be top priority in the next home. Of lesser interest this year is a kitchen, family and everyday eating area combined in one space (49 percent versus 56 percent in 2008) replaced by significantly greater interest in a family room partially separated from the kitchen (42 percent vs 27 percent in 2008).

There is also an increased desire (51 percent up from 44 percent in 2008) for a wall-mounted flat screen TV in the main family living area and for networked computers/home entertainment center (48 percent up from 43 percent in 2008).

Home Improvers
“With the economy still a major concern, right now it’s more about the ‘got to’ improvements than the ‘want to’ improvements,” reports Nusbaum. “The focus is now on low-cost improvements that will pack a big punch.”

Only 16 percent are feeling “now is the right time to spend” on home improvements compared with 38 percent saying “now is not the right time to spend.”  Just over half say they are focusing their efforts on needed repairs and maintenance. Three-quarters say the economy has had an impact on their home-improvement plans, with half having changed their home-improvement plans during the last year.

Smaller projects prove to be the most popular, such as painting a room (54 percent), replacing/adding flooring or carpeting (38 percent), decorating/re-decorating a room (35 percent) and landscaping the yard (30 percent).

Energy-efficiency is also a focus of future home projects, with respondents placing importance on installation of Energy Star windows/doors (34 percent), high-efficiency heating/cooling (31 percent) and Energy Star appliances (31 percent).